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Stats Perform Integrity and Starlizard Integrity Services have released their fourth annual Suspicious Betting Trends in Global [Soccer] Report. The report aims to provide fellow stakeholders in the sports integrity community with a significant and informative overview of current trends in suspicious football betting.
Detailed analysis was conducted on betting markets offered on 61,296 soccer matches played throughout the world in 2020. While this is down 23% on the 80,939 matches analyzed the previous year - primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic causing the cancellation of so many fixtures - it is comparable to the 62,250 matches analyzed two years ago.
Key findings of the 2021 Suspicious Betting Trends in Global [Soccer] Report:
* Despite concerns around the short-term risks in soccer being increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 217 (0.35%) matches in 2020 were identified as suspicious, a reduction in both real and percentage terms from the 456 (0.56%) matches in last year's report.
* This is the third successive year that the proportion of suspicious matches identified has reduced, and it is now over 50% less than our inaugural report from 2018 when 0.73% of matches were identified as suspicious.
* The proportion of suspicious matches in 2020 peaked in the spring when betting focus was concentrated on friendly matches and lower profile competitions. However, in the autumn months, as fixture calendars returned to relative normality, proportions dropped to well below those of previous years.
* 42% of all suspicious matches were at the highest level of domestic soccer in the country in which they took place. 36% of suspicious matches took place at the second highest level of domestic soccer.
* As with previous editions of the report, friendly matches continue to pose significant issues for soccer authorities. 1.19% of analyzed friendlies were suspicious, which is an increase from 0.67% in last year's report. Concerns around friendly matches are heightened when they take place in countries with a historically increased risk of suspicious competitive matches.
* Suspicious matches in women's soccer continue to be rare, with only one identified amongst more than 3,700 matches analyzed.
* A number of case studies have been identified where interventions by soccer authorities and law enforcement have preceded significant reductions in suspicious matches.
The Stats Perform Integrity and Starlizard Integrity Services teams worked together, each using their own advanced in-house systems and analytical capabilities to examine the betting markets on every single match within the study.
The results are an in-depth analysis of key betting markets (Asian Handicap, 1X2 and Total Goals markets) on soccer matches, including domestic and international competitions, across 112 countries and six continents. Betting markets for all of the matches were heavily scrutinized, in real-time and retrospectively, in order to identify any suspicious betting. The outcome of the analysis identified betting markets associated with 217 matches to be suspicious.
This report provides a detailed breakdown of where and when suspicious matches took place and compares the findings to those of previous years. It looks at locations, timings, tiers, and levels of competition, and whether the suspicious betting occurred across youth, international, friendly or women's matches. The report also notes the effects of law enforcement action on match-fixing.
Now in its fourth year, the Suspicious Betting Trends in Global [Soccer] Report has become an eagerly awaited publication for integrity stakeholders and seeks to provide valuable insight into the match-fixing risk facing the sport.
"After four years of publishing this report it is great to see that the analysis continues to generate objective and fact-based insights for [soccer's] governing bodies, integrity stakeholders, and fans alike," said Jake Marsh, Global Head of Integrity for Stats Perform. "2020 was an exceptional year for football in how it was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will no doubt be understanding the long-term effects and risks to the sport for several years. Despite the reduction in fixtures in 2020 there was still a very high number of matches that we identified as suspicious and potentially linked to manipulation. There are cautious signs for optimism in some areas, but the report shows the risk of match-fixing is ever present in [soccer], and it is paramount that those protecting the sport are properly equipped to protect the beautiful game."
Starlizard Head of Integrity Affy Sheikh said that "The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of [soccer] fixtures and the suspension of leagues around the world, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of games played during 2020. Worryingly, we have still identified over 200 games that are suspicious in terms of potential match manipulation, and that, we feel, warrant further investigation. Despite the more limited availability of matches due to the pandemic, this suggests that criminals have found new ways and new targets in their attempts to manipulate matches and the betting markets. It is imperative that all [soccer] stakeholders remain vigilant to the threat of match-fixing at all times and make adequate resources available to keep the sport clean, free from corrupt influence, and to ensure that [soccer] fans can enjoy watching an honest and fair game."
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